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Self Advocacy- Communicating Skills

WRITING LETTERS TO ELECTED OFFICIALS

The more personal your letter is, the more influence it will have. Say whatís on your mind and in your heart. You donít have to be an expertóyouíre a concerned citizen. Describe briefly how the policy in question affects you or your community.

Hand write your letter if your writing is legible. This way the receiver can tell youíre a real person. If you do type, add a hand-written note.

Be brief, clear, and specific. Keep your letter to one page if possible, and get right to the point.

Ask for a written response from the policymaker, stating his or her position on the specific issue you raised. Donít let them off the hook with a generalized response!

Be courteous with the people you contact even when you disagree with them. Include your address on your letter. An envelope can get lost.

Regarding e-mails and faxes: Again, the wisdom is the more personal the communication, the better. While some congressional offices do give e-mails and faxes the same weight as letters and send a formal response, others simply tally electronic letters and donít give them the same importance as "real letters."

These methods are best if time is of the essence. One idea is to print and mail letters you compose on an activism web site, or at least personalize your e-mail. It is very important that you include your address and zip code in all correspondence, because congressional offices only count opinions submitted by the people in their districts.

Optional Enhancements:

Enclose an article that bears on the policy in question. Remind the policymaker if you have a personal association with him or her. Use professional letterhead if possible. Write or call a second time, thanking for help or pressing for satisfactory answers.